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Film Comment July - August 2015

For over 50 years, an award-winning mix of international news, interviews, and critical reviews has kept Film Comment’s readers in touch with the state of movie art. Find out why Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino subscribe.

United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
$7.90(Incl. tax)

in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

THE DEATH OF CINEMA WAS PROCLAIMED IN THE LATE NINETIES. i forget why but I think it had something to do with Susan Sontag feeling like they don’t make ’em like they used to. Godfrey Cheshire followed up at the end of 1999 with “The Death of Film/The Decay of Cinema,” a surprisingly prescient if overly pessimistic set of predictions about the implications of the digital revolution that was just getting underway in film. Fifteen years on, the digital makeover of cinema has been fully accomplished. There are many shoot-on-film holdouts in Hollywood, in the independent scene, and in the avant-garde and art world. They maintain an attachment to the romance of celluloid when it comes to the making and exhibition of films and I’m with them one hundred percent. But…

6 min
sans papiers

JACQUES AUDIARD’S DECENT Dheepan may have won the top prize at Cannes, but another drama about the experience of illegal immigrants in Europe deserves its fair share of the limelight. Screened in the festival’s Critics’ Week, Jonas Carpignano’s debut feature Mediterranea follows a Burkina Faso man as he takes a treacherous land and sea journey, then gets a foothold in Calabria, Italy. With an intimate naturalism that at times evokes a tag-along documentary, Carpignano’s matter-of-fact approach, leavened with the humor of engaging side characters, produces the ring of truth without strain. That might be because the troubles faced by the character, Ayiva, were in many cases also faced by Koudous Seihon, the actor who plays him (and who’s oddly a ringer for the filmmaker Charles Burnett). These include the catch-22’s of…

2 min
canal plus

ABNER BENAIM’S NEW DOCUMENTARY is about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. What invasion of Panama? Indeed. As the director repeatedly points out, Invasion isn’t about the event itself—it’s about how people remember it. The interviews start in the enclosed space of a recording studio, then move out onto the streets, where Benaim asks people to help re-create scenes from the invasion, based on their own or their friends’ recollections. Benaim talks to everyone: he pays a homeless man to play dead in a body bag, interviews the man in charge of the locks in the Canal Zone, talks to crackheads and rich folks alike. Some people fought and killed, or tried to kill, American paratroopers. This was a lost cause, for Panama was home to massive U.S. military bases—the…

2 min
shine a light

A SPANISH-LANGUAGE CRITICAL JOURNAL with a robust presence online and in print, Lumière obliquely outlines its editorial bent in a short essay praising Fritz Lang’s The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb as “the only blockbusters that aren’t blockbusters… The producer really wanted to make a golden calf. And Fritz Lang made a film.” Which is to say: Lumière gives the overused term termite art fresh meaning. Overseen by editor Francisco Algarín Navarro, the largely self-financed publication looks at cinema’s past and present with fresh eyes. Fully embracing the expansive space available on the Web, Lumière’s site offers exhaustive multimedia symposiums on filmmakers ranging from Allan Dwan to Manoel de Oliveira. (Its print issues are available to read online with Issuu.) At 462 pages, the Dwan dossier, available in English…

2 min
parting glances

IN ERIC ROHMER’S 1981 FILM, Marie Rivière plays Anne, a young woman who gets dumped by her airline pilot lover on the same day that she is pursued by her unwanted, jealous boyfriend. In her first major feature-film role for the French auteur, Rivière explores the complexity of facing rejection and escaping desire. “It’s impossible to think about nothing” is not only the proverb that introduces The Aviator’s Wife—the first of Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs”—but it also serves as the key to Rivière’s character: Anne thinks all the time. Not only when she’s expressing herself through words and gestures but also when she might seem most passive— whilst listening. Rohmer shoots her final scene so that we can observe Rivière taking in all of her boyfriend’s mistaken assumptions about her sentimental…

2 min
retracing steps

IT’S SAID THAT WRITER Jorge Luis Borges once walked out of a recital by Astor Piazzolla—the Argentine composer and bandoneon player who, after having steeped himself for years in European classical music, almost single-handedly rewrote the language of tango—with a withering putdown: “I’m leaving. They’re not playing any tangos today.” In the mid-Sixties, Piazzolla played roughly the same role in Argentine popular music as Bob Dylan did in the U.S.: a mercurial, irreverent reviser of a musical tradition with deep roots in his country’s cultural life. By the late Eighties, when Piazzolla composed the soundtrack for Fernando Solanas’s Sur, he was an international icon. Although the composer never takes a central role onscreen in the movie, his song “Vuelvo Al Sur,” fronted by the famed tango performer Roberto Goyeneche, is the…